Monday, February 27, 2006

Anna, Anna, Anna, Anna -- Anna Nicole... 

My personal feeling on the Anna Nicole Smith saga has always been this: if she saw Howard Marshall's shrivelled, 89 year-old pecker even one time, she deserves the entire estate. And, having seen Dark Roots, I think there's quite a fair bit of evidence on her side of the claim. Dad hated the kids, knew what he was doing when he married her, and intended to play "screw the heirs", laughing all the way to the grave.

The Supreme Court will make that decision (or refuse to) tomorrow. However, I think there's a Solomonic solution to the situation, and it would work like this:

The judges confer separately with Anna Nicole and Pierce Marshall, and offer each of them this choice: "Are you willing to split the estate 50/50 with the other party?" The outcome goes like this: if both of them say "Yes", then the estate is split between them, end of the matter. If only one of them says "Yes", then the party who said "No" gets jack shit, and the other party gets everything. Finally, if both say "No", then everything goes to some non-profit cause. It's a nice little prisoner's dilemma solution and, really, the way these things should always be solved when there's a dispute. Once people figured out how the system worked, they'd be more than willing to negotiate and share. (It would work for multi-party suits, to. All the "Yeses" split equally, all the "Noes" take a walk.)

After all, Howard Marshall was a billionaire. Half of that ought to be enough for anybody, even if it is arguable that, if Anna Nicole Smith gets nothing, she's getting from the family the same thing she got from the old man. Screwed.

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Da Vinci Code 

I could also call this post "Holy Blood, Holy Crap!", but hey, I want to leave some seach-bait in the headlines, y'know?

The recent UK lawsuit over the book and soon to be movie The DaVinci Code is a very interesting conundrum. Personally, I'd like to see Holy Blood, Holy Grail authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh prevail in this case, because I read their book years ago, and they do make a very compelling case for their argument.

The premise behind both HBHG and TDC is that Jesus and his wife Mary Magdalene had a child together. In the former, Jesus didn't die after the Crucifixion; in the latter he does. Either way, with the help of Joseph of Arimathea, the family (with or without Jesus) eventually winds up in France, and the blood line became the foundation of the Merovingian Dynasty. When King Dagobert was assassinated, the bloodline went underground, but the tradition was carried on through secret knowledge, hidden codes and the like, with male descendents of Jesus and Mary awaiting their restoration to the throne of France. The idea was that Jesus, as the Jewish Messiah, wasn't supposed to establish a spiritual kingdom. The idea was that he would come as a material liberator of the Jews, freeing them from Roman domination and re-establishing the Kingdom of Israel on Earth.

Now, Baigent and Leigh did a lot of research back in the 70s and 80s to uncover all the bits and pieces, and their ultimate argument is just as plausible as the mainstream version of the story, if not more so. (You know -- Occam's razor.) Dan Brown came along and cribbed their research for a fictional account -- and might have shot himself in the ass when he named his villain "Leigh Teabing." Brown denies having read HBHG, but re-arrange the letters of that last name and see what you get. Hint: he did read HBHG, despite his claim:
But Brown had said that the HBHG was not "crucial or important" to the creation of the central theme of his novel and when he wrote his synopsis, he had not even read it.
Yeah, uh... horseshit.

Again, I'd love to see Baigent and Leigh win just on principal, and wind up with a chunk of the Da Vinci Code phenom. However, I don't think they will, because they're walking into an interesting trap. That is, copyright decisions in the past have determined that you can't copyright a collection of facts, only the presentation. So, for example, something like The Book of Lists can copyright the way they arrange and compile information, so that I can't publish my own thing called The Book of Listings that differs little in presentation. However, I can come up with my own way of presenting the same factual information, say Weirdness A to Z.

And there's where Baigent and Leigh are going to have a hard time prosecuting their suit against Brown because, in essence, in order to prove copyright infringement, they're going to have to claim that HBHG is a literary work of their own creation. If they stick with the "true story" angle, then Brown has created his own unique presentation of facts, and so has not infringed.

Sad for Baigent and Leigh, I know. On the other hand, if they did win, the precedent set would have a chilling effect on authors who lean toward fact-based stories. Could a newspaper sue you because a scene in your latest movie was a fictionalized version of a Darwin Award-worthy article they originally printed? Would you be prevented from doing a novel about the life of Young Shakespeare because some academic somewhere already published the "definitive" biography?

So -- my two cents; morally, Bagient and Leigh deserve something from the Da Vinci train, but legally, they don't. And, two cents more: I'm rather anti-Da Vinci Code personally, not because I think its premise is blasphemy (quite the opposite), but rather because I've read the original several times, and it's just a better story.

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Nice Move 

Speaking of eminent domain (and sorry to link to FoxNews, but...) it looks like an SC-based bank, operating in 11 states, is refusing to loan money to developers who use eminent domain to seize property.
"One of the most basic rights of every citizen is to keep what they own," said BB&T [Bank] Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Allison, a noted libertarian. "As an institution dedicated to helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security, we won't help any entity or company that would undermine that mission and threaten the hard-earned American dream of property ownership."
This is putting your politics where your wallet is, or vice versa. And, note the "noted libertarian" reference above. A perfect example of why empowering the third parties in this country is necessary, and will give them room to create creative solutions that satisfy a wider political spectrum.

For example -- I'm sure that John Allison's reasons are actually quite fiscally conservative, but they're also socially libertarian. That alone is a combo that would probably attract 60% of the voters -- if they were given real choices. "Leave our wallets and our homes alone."

Compare that with the mainstream version: "We'll steal your wallets and your homes, but pretend we're not doing one of them -- while doing nothing to stop it, and blaming the other party for it. And so we end up with both, anyway."

Kudos to BB&T Bank, though. We need more companies to cater to the interests of their customers. Maybe, when the companies realize that the kind of good PR this sort of thing brings is priceless, then they'll realize that doing the public good in the guise of business is good for business.

If only that would lead to a huge multinational or three insisting on nationally televised debates including all the candidates -- lest said multinational funding be withdrawn.

I won't hold my breath for that one, though.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

For the Farkers... 

So, there was a discussion thread today about the bootleg Turkish translation of the title Brokeback Mountain. To translate it back into American vernacular, it's roughly "Faggot Cowboys" (although "Efeminate Bottom Cowboys" would be closer to the actual.)

Anyway, the thread mysteriously vanished and then re-appeared with further comments disbled. I don't know why. Maybe because Fark has become sooooo PC lately (cough). But someone asked for the following right before the thread died, and I didn't want to disappoint, so... here's another gay cowboy movie poster for you:

Apropos of nothing. But I know that my brethren and I won't be torching any Turkish embassies over this. We all have to learn to laugh at ourselves.

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Whole Lotto Love... 

With all the truly important things going on in the world and the US today, it appalls me that, apparently, one of the most important stories in the known universe, at least as far as local news is concerned, is who won the latest mega-jackpot in whatever big lottery is going on. Needless to say, the $365 million Powerball payout has been a source of chair-wetting interest to the local news vultures ever since someone snagged the prize -- and especially since said winner didn't pop up instantly to claim it.

I could give less than two warm shits who wins a big lottery prize, unless they're related to me or want to give me money -- but in either of those cases, I'll find out without the help of Chatty Chuck and Laughy Cathy on the local news. Hell, I'd even prefer that the news stations didn't announce the winning numbers at all. If I've got access to play a lottery, I've got access to find out which numbers won, and I'd rather check my tickets on my own time, thank you.

If I ever did win a "newsworthy" lottery prize, this is the part I'd dread, because I'd pick the "No PR" option when cashing in the ticket -- and heaven help any reporter who came nosing around thereafter. I think, before collecting on that ticket, I'd go out and buy a black T-Shirt with "FUCK" on it in foot-high letters, then insist on wearing it if the news wanted to interview me -- not that I'd consent to an interview. That, and I'd make sure no more than three words of any sentence would be useable without editing...
REPORTER: How does it feel to win $xxx million dollars?
ME: Oh, it feels fucking great, you fuckin' fuck. How the fuck do you think it fucking feels? It's $xxx fucking million dollars. I'm fuckin' happy.
REPORTER: Um... is it really necessary to use that profanity?
ME: I'm fucking rich, you fuckin' fuckwit. I'll talk how I fucking want to now, you fucking douchebag.
And then I'd give the reporter a cockpunch, live, on the air.

But, seriously -- for anyone to experience such a financial windfall as a lottery prize amounting in the tens of millions of dollars or more (the Powerball jackpot is worth something like $112 million cash value after taxes), the last thing they need is the added annoyance of publicity. Stick their face on the national news, and they'll find themselves hounded by friends and relatives they never knew they had. "Hey, remember me, Tom? We were in the same second grade class for two months, 'til my dad's unit shipped off to Germany, but I saved your life by pushing you out of the way of that flying tetherball. How's about a little gratitude for that?"

No thanks. Short version: lottery winners are not news. Ever. The only people who care are the ones who get the big-ass check. The rest of it is the journalistic equivalent of masturbating outside the strip club door. You didn't get past the velvet ropes, but you want your gratification by proxy.

Memo to local reporters: stick a microphone in my face if I win a mega prize, I'll be buying enough stock in your pissant station to personally get you fired...

Either that or the cockpunch. Come to think of it, the latter option is more satisfying, especially since I'd be able to afford better lawyers than you.

Fuckin' douchebag.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Other One Has Bells on It... 

Somehow, I just can't believe an oil man talking about alternative energy sources and weaning America off of that lovely black gold. Texas Tea. Oil, you know. Okay -- I can't believe anything W says, especially since he made his announcement here
On Tuesday, he is scheduled to visit the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, where 32 jobs at the labs were eliminated by budget cuts earlier this month. Those jobs were restored two days before the president's visit.
And one wonders how soon after the TV cameras go away that those jobs will be cut again.

Okay, here's how to get to those alternative sources damn fast. It's kind of an X-Prize for energy. To the first company that markets an all-electric car that can run eight hours on a single battery charge (or run off of solar energy), meet the safety requirements of current cars and cost less than $20K -- a ten million dollar bounty, plus -- no Federal Tax Liability for the company or its employees for ten years, as in nothing due, nothing to file.

Same thing for the first company to create a solar cell that can power an average home for a family of four for twenty-four hours on eight hours of charge when there's only 20% sunshine.

And the first company to create a home system that will recycle plastics into electricity...

And for the first company to invent a stove that can cook a meal in comparable times to a gas oven at 450° using neither gas nor electricity... and for a company that comes up with a refrigerator that uses less than 90 Watts of electricity a month, and a clothes dryer that does its thing with no electricity at all.

Same thing for the first company to create a rechargeable 1.5V battery that is also totally biodegradeable in a landfill; likewise the first computer monitor to meet the same conditions.

The list could go on and on; basically, assemble a panel of futurists and Science Fiction writers to come up with their "Wishlist 2050", then dare the business community to make it happen by 2020. Sure, some things will still be impossible or just wild dreams. But others... you'd be surprised. And remember, this would be a double incentive. Not only would the big-ass company, like IBM or 3M or Monsanto or DuPont or whatever, benefit -- but every employee thereof, from CEO to mailroom boy, would also benefit. And trust me, when you offer a mid-level scientist an incentive along the lines of an effective 38% a year raise and no need to see the accountant during the first quarter of the year, you're going to create a mid-level scientist who will work his ass off to solve a problem. Not to mention a mailroom boy who actually has a reason to walk up to the white-coats and say, "Hey, y'know what... I may be crazy, but have you considered a combination of X and Y, plus Z?"

In a way, I'm cribbing this idea from Robert Anton Wilson, who postulated long ago the concept of the "design yourself out of a job" lottery. Or, well, not really a lottery, but with the same benefits. His idea was this: offer a bounty; anyone who designed themself out of a job through automation would be entitled to receive an annual salary for life of $50K, and anyone put out of a job by such a design would receive an annual salary of... I think it was $10K, but I don't remember. He was very pragmatic about it, figuring that 20% of the people so unemployed would become useless drains on the state -- but the other 80% would then go on to figure out how to design themselves out of more jobs, and so become millionaires even as everyone else climbed into the leisure class.

Likewise, let the scientists loose, give them multiple X Prizes for multiple things, and give us the promises of the future that have been part and parcel of American Culture since the 50s.

Weren't we supposed to be living on the Moon and driving flying cars by now?

But... I don't trust W's pronouncements on this for a second. I think he's just waving the "Energy Sufficiency" flag as a way of justifying attacking Iran in the spring -- 'cause then he'll be able to say, "Well, we didn't manage it, so we've got to secure that black crude, which means bombing another bunch of towelheads."

Yeah -- the day an oil millionaire sincerely believes we need to eliminate America's dependence on oil is the day that monkeys fly out of my ass.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Working for the People (for Once) 

I won't link the article, since it's behind the registration wall at the New York Times, although if you want to go to the URL direct and use BugMeNot, it's here: http://tinyurl.com/mrrlv.

And, it's finally a hint at government pulling its head out of its PACs and trying to help We, The People. You remember us, don't you? The ones who are really supposed to be running this country. Anyway, brief snippet gives the whole idea:
In a rare display of unanimity that cuts across partisan and geographic lines, lawmakers in virtually every statehouse across the country are advancing bills and constitutional amendments to limit use of the government's power of eminent domain to seize private property for economic development purposes.

The measures are in direct response to the United States Supreme Court's 5-to-4 decision last June in a landmark property rights case from Connecticut, upholding the authority of the City of New London to condemn homes in an aging neighborhood to make way for a private development of offices, condominiums and a hotel. It was a decision that one justice, who had written for the majority, later all but apologized for.
Once upon a time, there was a place for eminent domain -- and there still is, under strict guidelines. The idea behind eminent domain was that government could obtain land at market value for development into projects benefiting the public good. Once upon a time, "benefiting the public good" meant a school, library, park, fire or police station.

But, thanks to those who govern being whores, over the years "benefitting the public good" came to mean building a minimall, a big box store, a condo complex... er, well, in short, "anything my rich buddy developer wants to put up, but without winding up having his plans pump up property values and make it too expensive for his wealthy ass."

The inverse of this is that ubiquitous American story -- the homeowner who refuses to sell, and so winds up being the 1/4 acre lot dent in the facade of an 80 story skyscraper. Yeah, it's apocryphal, I think (saw it in a Bugs Bunny cartoon from the 40s), but that is the American dream there. Or it was, until the Supreme Court decided that, well, there really wasn't anything the Federal Goverment could do to stop these eminent domain deals.

Anyway, there shouldn't be a total ban on E.D., but laws must be very specific, and if I were writing them, they'd go like this:
  1. The land must be undeveloped and/or unoccupied for residential purposes.
  2. The land and/or property thereon may not be condemned for purposes of rendering it unoccupied.
  3. The owner of the land will be reimbursed the full market value of the land plus ten percent, with full market value equal to the greater of a) the highest assessed value during the previous seven years, inclusive; or b) the average comp for the immediate area; decided at the sole discretion of the owner.
  4. The land may only be used for the purpose of constructing one of the following:
    • A public school
    • A public library
    • A public park
    • A fire station
    • A police station
    • A public medical facility -- that is, one providing low-cost medical care to the community.
    • A local government office at the city, county or state level (i.e., courthouse, DMV, franchise tax board, etc.), provided such office is open to the public weekly until at least nine p.m. on one weekday evening, and a full eight hours one Saturday per month.
  5. Retail, commercial and industrial property are excluded from the terms above for a period of twenty years from enactment of this law. (This is called the E.D.F.U. revenge clause.)
I'd also toss in a bit where occupied or developed residential land can only be ED'd at three times the market value, as calculated above. That's called the "You gotta really want this" clause -- and it would include relocation money on top of the sale for all tenants/residents involved.

Of course, I'm not holding my breath until I actually see some of these laws pass, and pass with teeth. Our elected officials are so far into the back pockets of developers that they can smell what said developer had for lunch. So I'm fully expecting bills with lots of exceptions that are easy for rich people with lawyers to exploit, but impossible for Joe Schmoe to understand.

We shall see. But do pester your local elected official about this. It's an important issue; one that could end the legalized theft of private land for corporate profit.

Hm. A clause I'd really like to see that'll never happen: any private citizen can take possession of the private property of a developer through Eminent Domain for the price of exactly one dollar. I'll bet that would make those bastards scream...

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Let's Party! 

As I mentioned in a previous post, I think that the best possible route of salvation for this country in the future is for the electorate to reject both the Democratic and Republican parties, and empower the so-called "third" parties by voting for them in large numbers. Ultimately, I think our contry is big and diverse enough that two parties (or two entites that pretend not to represent the same moneied interests) are not sufficient to represent us. If anything, we really should have Parliamentary representation, with parties of the far-right, far-left, moderate right, moderate left and center all represented proportionally. If anything, it would marginalize the nutjobs from both the right and left, and give more equal power to all the folk in the middle who differ, really, in only small degrees over minor issues but tend to agree on the major ones.

That said, I provide now as a public service An Introduction to Your Third Parties as a way for you to decide which one best represents your interests. I present them in alphabetical order, so here we go.

The Constitution Party: also known as The U.S. Taxpayers' Party, The American Independent Party and the Independent American Party. If you're fiscally conservative, this is the party for you. Their platform, courtesy of Wikipedia:
The Constitution Party holds that Republican and Democratic parties are becoming corrupt and are subversive in nature. They emphasize how America was not founded upon religion, but upon biblical principles. It advocates a stronger adherence to the "original intent" of the United States Constitution and the principles of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. It has a strong conservative approach on moral issues and seeks to encourage the role of Christian values and morality in American life, and thus oppose legalized abortion, and gay rights.

Constitutionalists support reducing the role of the United States federal government through: cutting bureaucratic regulation, spending, and they call for the abolishment of the IRS to be replaced with a fair tax system. Its leaders are among the strongest advocates of abolishing most forms of federal taxation, especially the income tax. They view most current regular federal expenditures (such as those for healthcare, education, welfare, etc.) as unconstitutional per the Tenth Amendment.

They support paying off the federal debt through a systematic elimination of further borrowing and unconstitutional programs and agencies such as the Department of Education, Internal Revenue Service, United States Department of Health and Human Services, etc. They strongly oppose foreign aid which they call an unconstitutional international giveaway program. They call for no further funds be appropriated for any kind of foreign aid program, and that United States participation in international lending institutions, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the Export-Import Bank be abolished. They pledge that all government subsidies, tax preferences, and investment guarantees to encourage U.S. businesses to invest in foreign lands be immediately terminated; and all debts owed to the United States by foreign countries, or foreign entities, be collected.

Additionally, they favor a noninterventionist foreign policy. In such, they advocate reduction and eventual elimination of the role the United States plays in multinational and international organizations such as the United Nations and favor withdrawal of the United States from most current treaties. The party takes paleoconservative positions in supporting protectionist policies on international trade. They are steadfastly opposed to the USA Patriot Act, illegal immigration and governmental welfare, and they also seek a more restrictive policy on immigration and support a federal law of California proposition 187.

They demand that the federal government restore immigration policies based on the practice that potential immigrants will be disqualified from admission to the U.S. if, on the grounds of health, criminality, morals, or financial dependence, they would impose an improper burden on the United States, any state, or any citizen of the United States.

Additionally they oppose the provision of welfare subsidies and other taxpayer-supported benefits to illegal aliens, and reject the practice of bestowing U.S. citizenship on children born to illegal alien parents while in this country; also any extension of amnesty to illegal aliens. The Constitution party calls for the use of U.S. troops to protect the states against a influx of illegal immigrants.

The party opposes bilingual ballots and insists that those who wish to take part in the electoral process and governance of the US be required to read and comprehend basic English as a precondition of citizenship. They support English as the official language for all governmental business by the United States.

They endorsed Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist for Congress who is also an affiliate member in 2005.

They strongly support the right to bear arms and view the Second Amendment to the Constitution as securing broad rights to own guns.
Interesting, isn't it, when you get into a third party platform? Because even I, as a liberal, can agree with some of this party's ideas -- like getting back to what the Constitution intended, supporting the Second Amendment (surprise surprise, dear readers) and redesigning the tax system. Their attitudes toward abortion, gay rights and illegal immigrants suck ass, but you can't win them all. On the bright side, none of their candidates are owned by pharmaceutical companies, lawyers, PACs or other various and sundry scum.

The Green Party: These are their Ten Key Values, basically their platform:
1. Community-based economics, e.g. LETS, local purchasing, co-housing, Community-supported agriculture
2. Decentralisation, e.g. via Bioregional democracy, sustainable agriculture, regional transmission grids
3. Ecological Wisdom, e.g. ending human-caused extinction, promoting ecological health
4. Feminism, e.g. health security especially for mothers and children, and thus a focus on environmental health, gender equity in government; also referred to as Postpatriarchal Values, e.g. de-emphasizing competition and encouraging cooperation
5. Grassroots democracy, e.g. via electoral reform to improve deliberative democracy
6. Non-violence, e.g. via de-escalation, peace processes
7. Personal and global responsibility, e.g. moral purchasing, voluntary simplicity
8. Respect for diversity, e.g. via fair trade, bioregional democracy
9. Social justice, e.g. harm reduction rather than zero tolerance, a Living wage
10. Future Focus/Sustainability, e.g. measuring well-being effect over seven generations, leading to what is called seven-generation sustainability, Renewable energy and Conservation, New urbanism, Zero waste
Hm. Y'know, I really can't find anything to disagree with in these statements. Figure out a way to make a free-market economy support Green Values (and it can be done), and you'd have a winning strategy for the future. If you're ultra-liberal or, ironically, support elimination of government intrusion into people's personal lives (read between the lines on the above), then this is your party.

The Libertarian Party: I have to admit that this is the party with which I'm registered to vote, and have been for a long time, although I consider myself much more of a social libertarian than an economic libertarian. For example, I can see the value of heavy government regulation of corporations, as well as the need for some sort of taxation, whether it be of income or property. But a lot of their platform makes sense, and here it is:
Key tenets of the Libertarian Party platform include the following:

* A self-regulating free market economy (primarily by voluntary consumer groups), including support of the right to keep and bear arms, opposition to drug prohibition, and elimination of the state-supported social welfare system and indeed all taxation for voluntary alternatives along lines of the Libertarian originated Alaska Permanent Fund.
* Strong civil liberties including free speech, freedom of association, sexual freedom, abortion, and a foreign policy of free trade, non-interventionism, and opposition to the initiation of force (particularly military) to attain goals.
* Total opposition to any and all forms of gun control at all levels of government.

Libertarians state that their platform follows from consistent application of the principle of mutual respect for rights, and the liberty of exercise thereof, and thus are deeply interested in of individual liberty as a pre-condition for moral and stable societies. In their "Statement of Principles," they say "We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose." To this end, Libertarians want to reduce the size of government (eliminating many of its current functions entirely), and "support the repeal of all taxation."[1]

Libertarians reject the view of politics as a one dimensional, left-right spectrum, divided between left and right, with the Democrats representing the center-left or left, and Republicans representing the center-right or right.

To illustrate their view that the one-dimensional view of politics is insufficient to describe the myriad of political philosophies held by the public, Libertarians introduced the Nolan chart to communicate their belief that politics is at least two-dimensional.

Among outside political watchers, some consider Libertarians to be conservative (primarily because of their support of the right to bear arms and because of their view on taxes and states rights); while others consider them liberal because of their advocacy of a non-interventionist foreign policy, the repeal of Drug Prohibition, and the elimination of laws that interfere with private consensual acts (such as prostitution and gambling).

Within the framework of libertarian politics, the Libertarian Party's platform falls roughly in the realm of free market minarchism. The party advocates limiting the government as much as possible, within the confines of the United States Constitution. As in any political party, there is some internal debate about the platform, and not all the party's supporters advocate its complete or immediate implementation, but most think that the USA would benefit from most of the Libertarian Party's proposed changes. However, under a policy known as the Dallas Accord, the national Libertarian Party does not favor any particular approach, leaving individual candidates and other advocates of Libertarian solutions free to determine how that message will be presented.
BTW, the Libertarians created the World's Smallest Political Quiz to determine where your politics lie. I urge you to take it. (I scored 100% on personal issues and 60% on economic issues.)

There's also the Peace and Freedom Party, which fell below necessary registered voters in 2004, so is on the back burner for the moment. But the point is this -- there are more choices on the ballot than D or R. If you're Liberal, consider voting Green. If you're Conservative, consider voting Constitution Party. If you're tired of the government fucking up in general, vote Libertarian.

But... we have the power to do this. Tired of the Status Quo? Kick all the bastards out. Learn your options, register and vote accordingly, and know that you've done your part to take power away from the powers behind the throne, the wealthy bastards who own our government. That, more than anything, will save this country. Consider it a Soft Revolution, fought with the ballot instead of the bullet. The end results will be the same... and the amusement factor alone of watching the mainstream media try to figure out where to stand on a third party president will be priceless.

But, here's the key to it, because I've been guilty of the following. We all have to do this together, as a bloc. Convince your friends and neighbors, and get them to do the same. Because, especially in the last two National Elections, I really wanted to cast my vote for my party, but voted instead for the Democrat not because I necessarily supported him more (okay, 2000 yes, 2004, only by default), but because I didn't want to "waste" my vote on the Libertarian. And that's bullshit. If we all decide to vote for what we prefer instead of the two choices the mainstream gives us, we'll discover power in numbers -- a power that will make the current power elite, on the morning after, shit a brick and smell the coffee.

And how cool would that be?

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Kiss, Kiss, Bang Bang 

On the one hand, just a hunting accident. On the other hand... imagine if Bill Clinton or, more properly, Al Gore, had accidentally unloaded a round of buckshot into a friend's face on a hunting trip. And then tried to keep the news from the public for more than twenty-four hours.

It's nice to see the comedy shows making hay with this incident, but there's another truth beneath it that I hope doesn't get lost. Dick Cheney has done exactly what NeoCons love to accuse and accuse and re-accuse Ted Kennedy of doing nearly forty years ago. Mainly, running away from an "Oopsie."

A human being with a sense of dignity and a shred of conscience would have been on TV an hour after the... um... "accident", letting the world know, "There was an accident while we were hunting, but the guy I accidentally shot is okay." And hey, I can certainly grant the man a gimme -- 'cause I've been around amateurs with guns, and have only saved my limbs by being defensive; i.e., keeping said limbs away from the business end of the weaponry held by the guy doesn't realize his finger is on the trigger and his foot is within range and the thing in his hand is full of bullets that love to go WhizBang at the slightest touch...

But, oops. Forgot. Cheney has neither a sense of dignity nor a shread of conscience. But now he's got an albatross, and I hope this hangs around his neck for as long and as badly as the NeoCons have hung Chappaquidick around Ted Kennedy's.

Oh yeah. One difference. Ted Kennedy has actually fought for the little people, ceaselessly and tirelessly. Dick Cheney? Somehow, the only thing I think he'd fight for is a seat at the good table at a Billionaire-Laden Republican Fundraiser.

And now, a few words for the NSA spies out there. Dick Cheney should be severely castigated for having shot a hunting partner, if not censured and/or impeached. Maybe this whole thing will blow up into some sort of outrage at the Capitol. Or not.

Vince Foster, anyone? Hey, at last, in Cheney's case, we know who was holding the gun. And, from this day forward, I have a great new nickname that Der Fuerher George Bush can call Dickie Boy.

Elmer Fudd. 'Cause he's just about as good a hunter, eh?

Duck Season. Rabbit Season. Duck Season. Rabbit Season. Rabbit Season. Duck Season!


Silly Wepublicans...

Duck Season, indeed. 'Cause the mud that will be flung is just going to get worse and worse. Heh heh. I feel like Matt Drudge the day they found the little blue dress.

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NBC Ya Later 

Sigh. 'Tis that time, once again, when NBC turns its late-night attention to naught but the Olympics, meaning that anything they show is pointless and sucky. And, dammit, just when Conan O'Brien is heading to Finland to meet with President Tarja Halonen. Now that's the international event I want to see. Fuck Torino (aka Turin -- did they change the name to avoid tainting The (fake) Shroud?) -- give me Conan's comedy gold any day.

In other news, I guess some ice skater who duped the USOC into thinking she was healthy enough to compete re-injured herself, simultaneously blowing her Gold Medal Chances and making the high school hopeful who got dumped so the USOC could whore out to past fame think, "WTF?" Just proving that the Olympics really aren't about sports. Oh, of course they're not. They're just rah-rah bullshit. Otherwise, you'd think you'd be hearing about all the winners, and not just the ones from the US of fucking A. Michelle who? Honey, every mall in America with an indoor rink is full of dozens of girls just as good or better than you, but without the same PR flaks. And you've made an idiot of yourself forever with that second groin pull. Welcome to footnote land, your fifteen minutes are up, ta-ta.

Harsh? Maybe. But, as any good coach would scream at her, suck it up and take it. You took your chances and you fucked up big time. C'est la vie.

And, just before the Olympics started, a bunch of althletes were suspended for having hemoglobin levels that were too high. To which I say, "Okay. When the hell are we going to stop this obsession with thinking that athletes shouldn't try to do what they can to do their best?" Hey, if a baseball player takes steroids, I could give two warm shits. And it's even more ridiculous when athletes are suspended for having too much of a natural substance in their blood. Okay, maybe they shot up with hemo. Maybe they practiced at high altitude. Maybe they gave blood. Maybe they're just freaks. But, Jeebus, the hypocrisy. On the one hand, all sports seem to be concerned with is the next record, the next better performance. On the other hand, humans can only go so far naturally. Who in their right mind wouldn't have expected all athletes to have hit the plateau somewhere around 1990?

Or are you expecting a two minute mile from somebody who hasn't had some serious medical assistance?

But, anyway -- I've made my opinion on professional sports clear here many times before. The phrase is an oxymoron. Sports are a game. A hobby. Not a worthy profession. If anything is worthy of minimum wage without benefits, well, sports are it. And the sooner the feelgood clusterfuck called the Olympics, summer or winter, is over, the better.

When they tried to make Ballroom Dancing an Olympic Sport, the game was up. And do they still have ski shooting on the list?

Hm. Maybe Dick Cheney should have been on that team. Or not... although, if Ann Coulter were one of his teammates... now, that I would have paid money for.

Memo to Ann Coulter: that's called humor. You know. A joke. Like all those jokes you made about killing liberals. So if you run across this and take offense... tough shit, babe. Or, as noted above, suck it up and take it. I'm sure you're not unfamiliar with either of those things... Adam's Apple or not.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Chick Flick for Dudes 

I've been running across a lot of anecdotal backlash evidence against Brokeback Mountain online lately -- mostly of the "I'm a liberal straight guy, but I don't like chick flicks" sort. And I can respect that. And it's kind of funny, actually. Guys over 30 are not seeing the moving because, well, you know -- it's got teh ghey in it. But guys under 30 seem to not be seeing it because it isn't an action flick.

Note to both groups: it's got more boobies in it than the latest acton flick. Sure, content yourself with latex-bound nipples and guns, or come to marvel at Anne Hathaway's and Michelle Williams's hooters in all their glory. And, incidentally, there are more straight sex scenes in the movie than gay ones. The only actual moment of gay sex in Brokeback Mountain happens with both partners fully clothed. Hell, they might as well just be wrestling. And there are only three moments of male nudity: Heath Ledger, in an out of focus background shot, Jake Gyllenhaal doing his laundry (wearing his hat and boots at least), and Jake and Heath doing a high-dive off a cliff. If you've ever been on spring break in Cabo, you've probably seen your best friends at least five times as naked and doing the same thing. If not worse.

As for it being a "chick flick", well, yes and no. Sure, it's an unrequited romance story and, aside from the gender of the partners involved, is no different than such sagas stretching all the way back through past centuries, including such predecessors as Madame Butterfly and Romeo and Juliet. The difference here, I think, is that, except for that schtupping thing, the relationship between Jake and Heath's characters isn't all that different than between most 20-something male roommates I know. Face it, guys -- if you've picked the right friend to live with, you've got an attraction to him, and I don't mean sexual. Emotional feelings for someone of the same gender aren't the same as a raving sexual attraction. It's called friendship, and, in some ways, Brokeback Mountain is really the story of two otherwise straight friends who could have been best buddies for life, except for a moment of indescretion that happened once long ago on a mountaintop in Wyoming.

If you got all verklempt in Die Hard when Bruce Willis's character finally reunited with his wife, then you'll find events not all that different in Brokeback Mountain.

Finally, there's the pussy factor, to put it bluntly. If you've got a female SO or wife, take her to this movie. Trust me, you'll be having wild monkey sex five minutes after you get home, and she'll probably even finally do "that" thing for you. Why? Because, a) sitting through this movie will prove to her that you're a real man who has no doubts about his sexuality; b) going to this movie will inspire you to cling onto her from parking lot to closing credits; you'll be holding her hand or have your arm around her shoulder the entire time so that the rest of the audience knows you're not "that" way, and she'll interpret it as you really care. If you really want to earn the bonus points, fake the sniffles from the point that Heath Ledger's character visits Jack Twist's parents, and cling tighter to the SO.

And, finally, a lot of the above is tongue-in-cheek. Because, honestly, I can fully relate to why straight men wouldn't want to see this movie. It's got nothing to do with teh ghey, and everything to do with the movie being a sappy romance. Hey, I'll bet that you didn't run right out to see Sleepless in Seattle or any other mushy film like that. But, if you did or do, then you already know about the benefits described in the previous paragraph.

But, hey -- Brokeback Mountain has sheep and beautiful scenery and fistfights and country music. And it turns the John Wayne personna on its head. Or on its ass, take your pick.

Wonder what the Duke would have thought about that?

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His Career Was Just a Theory... 

Hm. I don't suppose this (evil NY Times, use BugMeNot) has anything to do with that and that...

The that and that, as reported in many places, including the wonderful Badastronomy.com, is that George Deutsch, an experience-free Bush appointee to NASA, had the official NASA website changed to indicate that the Big Bang was "only a theory." Now, granted, the word "theory" has a quite different meaning in science circles than it does to ordinary people, but Deutsch really went way out into whacko land when he insisted that every instance of "the Big Bang" on the NASA website be changed to "the Big Bang Theory." In truth, in science, a "theory" is something built from an hypothesis that has been well-tested and generally proven to be the case; e.g., the Theory of Relativity has been tested by many experiements that have shown Einstein to be correct; and you can test the Theory of Gravity by jumping off a high place and watching what happens on your way toward the Earth.

What laymen call a "theory" is, in science an "hypothesis." In other words, someone came up with the hypothesis that electromagnetic energy was carried by tiny particles with a negative charge, and mediated by a force carried by particles with neither charge nor mass. Investigation and science would lead to the further hypothesis that electromagnetic energy is carried by things called electrons and photons; experiments to decide whether this was or was not so would eventually lead to either a) abandonment of the hypothesis, or b) confirmation of the theory. In science, when something is elevated to the status of "theory", it's pretty much been confirmed.

Unfortunately, because different fields speak different languages, "theory" in layman's terms means the same as "hypothesis" in scientific terms -- as in, "a vague idea I pulled out of my butt that may or may not describe how the world works."

Swap the terms around, and you'll see the real problem with what Deutsch tried to do. He wanted to change "the pretty much confirmed idea that the Universe began with a Big Bang, when an infinitely dense point exploded out to create everything" to "the vague idea someone pulled out of their ass that the Universe came from nothing."

Let's see what Edwin Hubble thinks of the latter description...

Anyway, enough of the that and that. As for the this...
George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.
And his resignation couldn't possibly, possibly have anything to do with his mucking about with real science and being a general 24 year-old dipshit assigned to his post more for his political ass-kissing than anything else.

Anyway, here's my hypothesis: Deutsch quit because he became an embarrassment to the Administration; someone got caught with their hand in Schroedinger's Box. And, while the official reason might have some truth to it:
According to his résumé, Mr. Deutsch received a "Bachelor of Arts in journalism, Class of 2003."

Yesterday, officials at Texas A&M said that was not the case.
the truth is, since no one caught this problem before Deutsch took the job, I think it was something convenient that was specifically ignored in order to get Deutsch into his job, but something which was reserved as a Sword of Damocles, for use precisely when Deutsch became too obvious in toeing the wingnut party line and garnered too much attention.

Theory: the current Administration is the most corrupt and nepotistic since Ulyses S. Grant. And I think we've seen ample verification of that statement to elevate it from Hypothesis to Theory. Or, in laymen's terms, proven fact.

Valid, proven theory: Evolution.

Hypothesis: Intelligent Design.

One has shitloads of evidence behind it. One... not so much. Or not at all. And the fewer freaks like Deutsch, who try to push non-science among real scientists, the better.

Good bye, don't let the doorknob hit you in the ass, and be sure to turn the lights off when you leave.


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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Electrifying Stupidity 

This has already made the rounds of the blogosphere, but it's either so damn funny or so damn appalling that I have to mention it here. Courtesy of Eschaton, via Crooks and Liars, a comment from AG Alberto Gonzales as he continues his tapdance of trying to say that the President didn't break wire-tapping laws -- even though the President broke wire-tapping laws.
"President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale."

Um... say what? Okay, FDR was probably spying on radio broadcasts, and Wilson... well, he didn't have much to wiretap, per se. But no doubt those two had spies out there, seeing as how they were in the midst of WW II and WW I, respectively. And Lincoln probably had a few telegraph lines bugged...

But I sure would like to know how the hell George Washington did his electronic surveillance. Maybe Gonzales slipped here and gave away an Illuminati secret -- that the founding fathers did have advanced technology, given them by their Bavarian Overlords. Maybe he was just trying to make some point about spying and was being metaphorical. Or, more likely, he's just a dumbass who's ignorant of history.

I wonder what tunes Ben Franklin had on his iPod. I'll bet he used to listen to Blackeyed Pea's My Humps all the time when he was gettin' jiggy with those French ladies.

Incidentally, Washington was not a wartime president. Yes, he was a wartime general. But he was in office after the Revolution and before the British Invasion of 1812. And well before the British Invasion of 1964...

But, Berty, let's get back to the original question: did President Bush break the law when he ordered wiretaps without getting FISA warrants?

Um... yes. And no amount of "b-b-b-b-but (Clinton, Bush I, Lincoln, Washington) did it" is going to change that fact. Mainly because none of those other presidents did it. They followed the law and got their warrants. Well, except for Nixon -- but when he got caught wire-tapping, his defense wasn't "It's legal because I can do what I want dammit."

Hm. Come to think of it, Nixon's defense was to resign and get a pardon from Gerald Ford. There's a hint for W there. When your actions become indefensible, sometimes the best defense is to just go away.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Ignore the Headlines 

Newsweek: "Can the President Order a Killing on U.S. Soil?"

That's the headline in Newsweek, which has gotten picked up all over the place, in just those terms. On its face, it sounds shocking and terrible. Trouble is, the headline is wrong and, for once, I'm actually defending the Administration on this one.

Newsweek's article is brief, and doesn't offer any direct quotes; just anonymously sourced comments on the content of a private session with the Senate Intelligence Committee. The question, posed by Diane Feinstein was, "could Bush, for instance, order the killing of a Qaeda suspect known to be on U.S. soil?" (Quote from article, not from Feinstein.) The answer, in brief, was basically, "Yeah, sure, if they're about to commit a terrorist act." Or, in other words, if the guy is standing in Times Square strapped to a dirty bomb and yelling "Allah Ackbar!", then, uh... yeah, blow his head off.

That's a bit different story than the headline, which implies secret police grabbing people who once accidentally misdialed and got Tehran instead of Copenhagen, dragging them into alleys and shooting them in the head. This Administration hasn't gotten quite that bad... yet. But, in this one case, the sin trumpeted in the headline is a non-issue. I'm sure even the most leftwing of liberals would agree -- if there's someone in a crowd with their finger on a bomb, shoot to kill.

To put it in civilian terms -- no one should object to police putting a bullet in the head of an armed suspect who's holding a private citizen hostage at the point of a weapon. If they can get a clean shot and end the situation... well, that's the cops' jobs. (That people do object, even in the most open-and-shut cases, is an entirely different issue.) Now, the way the headline puts it, this would be like allowing cops to shoot suspected criminals on sight.
"Hey, Joe -- doesn't that look like Tommy 'Two Fingers' Jones?"
"Sure does, Bill."
That's not how justice works in this country. Luckily, in this case, Administration spokescritters were saying the same thing. It's just the headline that was taken out of context.

It's the "clear and present danger" concept. If someone is in the middle of committing certain crimes -- those that immediately endanger other lives -- then lethal force is sometimes necessary.

Now, if the Administration starts spinning this concept into "we can summarily execute suspected terrorists," then they'd be dead wrong. They haven't started spinning it that way. Yet. So we on the left shouldn't do that either.

After all, there are enough high crimes and misdemeanors committed by the current Administration to focus on already. We don't need to start inventing them based on faulty headlines.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Only Way to Win Is to Not Play... 

Sage advice from the old film War Games...
And Iran... Iran so far away... I just ran, Iran all night and day. I couldn’t get away... -- Flock of Seagulls.
See, our preznint has stuck our nation in an untenable position, and here it is. Once upon a time, right about when Ronald Reagan was making secret deals with terrorists in order to make sure Jimmy Carter wasn't re-elected, Iran was Public Enemy Number One. They kidnapped a bunch of Americans, held them hostage for over a year, and proclaimed us the Great Satan every chance they got. Ayatollah Khomeini was more hated than Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden combined -- and that was non-partisan, equal-opportunity wrath. Conservatives hated him and liberals hated him. If there had ever been an issue in this country that united opposite sides of the spectrum, then the Hostage Crisis of '79-'80 was it. In fact, when Kohmeini bit the dust in 1989, even the most peace-loving and atheistic of leftwingers (um, like, me), said "Thank god he's gone."

Flash forward to 2006. Now we're getting the maybe it's true, maybe it's false news that Iran is trying to build nookular bombs. And if George W Bush hadn't been such an utter fuck-up as CinC, our course would be clear. Sure -- sanction them, isolate them, disarm them. Kind of a no-brainer there.

But the trouble is... Georgie Boy had an agenda called Saddam -- a tinhorn dictator who had been about as isolated as Fidel Castro, and who wasn't a danger to anyone. And, when Bush should have stayed the course in Afghanistan and gone after bin Laden and company, he didn't. He lied the nation into invading Iraq, probably mostly to show the world that he could do what his daddy didn't. And so, he took our focus away from bin Laden, invaded a country that was not involved with 9/11, killed over 2,000 of our fine soldiers, and stuck us in a quagmire without an exit -- but only because somebody has too damn much pride to admit a mistake, cut and run.

Which is why we're in an untenable position. If we were only dealing with Afghanistan, then neutralizing Iran wouldn't be such a problem. And we could probably manage it in non-military ways, via diplomacy with Russia, who could convince their lil buddy in the Middle East to not be so belligerent. In fact, if we hadn't invaded Iraq, Iran really wouldn't have incentive to arm themselves. But I think they woke up and smelled the coffe and did the math. "Hm. Axis of Evil. Iraq, Iran, North Korea." Now, one of those countries got invaded and one didn't. One of those countries has nukes and one doesn't. You do the math. Hell, if I were the leader of a country next door to one invaded by the last remaining super power for no good reason, I'd sure as hell be scrambling to get my hands on that enriched Uranium and Plutonium and stocking up on missiles that could make it to Israel or Europe.

By the way, Israel most likely has their own nukes. Do we hear anyone over hear threatening to invade that country? Um... nope. Wonder why not...?

But, anyway... BushCo. has done everything possible to make an invasion of Iran ill-advised and impossible. Oh, sure -- we could just withdraw our troops from Iraq by having them march east, and pull them out of Afghanistan by marching west and hoo-hah, let's meet in Tehran. Except then we'd be screwing with Russia's oil, and China's friend, and... Bush doesn't have the political capital in the world, much less in this country, to even seriously consider such a course of action.

No... the time to hit Iran was in the summer of 1989, when Big Daddy Bush was in office and the Ayatollah Khomeini went off to collect his 72 Virgins. Or, well, maybe he only got 36, since he died of natural causes. But that was seventeen years ago. A different world, a different time. I'd say that it was before "9/11 changed everything," except that I don't believe that bullshit for one second.

Anyway, here's the deal. We know now (or, well, most everyone knows now, 'cause a lot of us knew three years ago) that W lied us into war with Iraq. I'll take any report about any weapons in Iran with a grain of salt. And the second that W seriously calls for an invasion of that country is the second that he should be arrested by the Secret Service, hauled out of office, locked in an insane asylum and tried for treason.

It's one thing to defend this country against its real enemies. It's quite another to run willy-nilly around the world invading countries for flimsy reasons. And the latter is the kind of thing that creates more terrorists. If BushCo. takes action against Iran, in having no justification for it, they are only going to create yet another terrorist incubator, and endanger all Americans further.

Like I said -- treason. Treason and insanity. Don't let the nutjobs in charge pull this snowjob on us. Iran won't be a danger to us until the day that the first American soldier is sent over the border. But, ask yourself this -- if your country were invaded, wouldn't you fight against those invaders, no matter the reason they came in? Iranians certainly will -- and if W even tries to go there, he's going to learn the meaning of the phrase "tar baby" real fast.

Oh, wait. He already punched that baby in Iraq, and didn't learn his lesson. Idiot.

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